Archives for June 2004

Anchorman, The Legend of Ron Burgundy

While everybody in the TV industry is getting ready for a few laughs from the new Will Ferrell movie, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, I think it’s important to look at the fallout from such a parody. The Hollywood Reporter calls it “infantile humor but funny” and offers this observation:

If Ferrell’s recent screen successes — “Elf” and “Old School” — mean anything, this broadly played (to put it mildly) antic comedy should become a hit with the young crowd.
This is the same young crowd that avoids local news already and sees through much of the nonsense the film is sure to mock. The St. Louis Post Dispatch recently surveyed their readers about what they don’t like about local TV news. They listed self promotion, news “lite,” too little meat, bragging, teases, pointless live shots, fake banter, bad news and too many weather warnings. This is exactly the stuff we see exploited in films that feature a television newsroom, and I’m sure some of it will find its way into the Ferrell movie.

The point is we’ve dug the hole that now is collapsing around us. Take a look at recent headlines that offer a daily dose of doom and gloom for local TV.

Online Advertising Poised For Double-Digit Growth Over Next Five Years
Internet advertising will continue its torrid pace over the next five years, more than doubling its market share to a projected $11.4 billion in 2008, according to a new report by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. link

TV ad spending to plunge, top ad exec says
The head of the biggest U.S. advertising agency expects to see a staggering decline in spending on network television commercials, even worse than most of the negative expectations for the medium. link

Commercial Data Zaps ‘Effective Frequency,’ Supports ‘Recency’
New research on the commercial zapping habits of TV viewers, especially those equipped with digital video recorders (DVR), reveals that a common element of most campaigns–advertising frequency–may be the biggest anathema to advertising exposure. link

Watching TV on the PC
More computers used to view, record TV thanks to improved technology. link

And these headlines come from just the last two days!

But, Terry, what does this have to do with Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy? Plenty, I think, because the industry itself has become a parody of its former self. We don’t listen to people anymore. We listen to consultants. Our emphasis isn’t on the news anymore. We’re obsessed with marketing. We don’t let the news take us where IT wants to go anymore. We pat ourselves on the back, because we’re so good at managing audience flow. And in Fargo, North Dakota, of all places, a young TV reporter faces felony trespassing charges for climbing an 8-foot chain link fence to do an investigative piece on security at the airport. That’s the Fargo airport! Did he want such a story for his resume tape, the formulaic escape from small markets like Fargo? We’re so stuck in our little world that we’re missing what’s really happening.

And now Hollywood is giving the world another insider look at what we’re all about. You may think that’s ridiculous, but those young people the Hollywood Reporter references don’t. After all, they get their news from the Comedy Channel anyway.

This is brilliant…

…and the way of the future. It’s called SmarTrailer, Disney’s new interactive online movie trailer concept. MediaDailyNews reports that the online trailer for the November Disney film, National Treasure, debuted on Yahoo! Movies Monday.

Oren Aviv, president of marketing for Buena Vista Pictures Marketing, called the new interactive trailer “the perfect marriage of technology infrastructure and content.”

“We obviously think because this movie appeals to everyone, a lot of folks will learn about it online. We’re big fans of online marketing; it’s a great way to reach people,” Aviv said, adding that “National Treasure” marks one of the unit’s more aggressive uses of online marketing. He declined to elaborate on a dollar figure for online media.

What we have here is a natural useage of the Web to sell a product. It doesn’t force itself on users. It allows users to interact. It’s portable and can be spread via email. This is the nature of advertising’s future.

Here’s the trailer.

Chalk one up for the bad guys

The Register reports this morning that the Dutch student who wrote an important piece of software in the fight against malware has given up his effort to stay current with the developers of CoolWebSearch (CWS), one of the nastiest browser hijackers on the planet. According to the report, new variants of CWS show up every few weeks, and he can’t keep up.

(Merijn) Bellekom has just released the latest version of his CWShredder (1.59), the only antidote to the trojan, but warns that his app won’t be updated again: “I have a few bugs to fix, but after that there’s not much left to do. I simply do not have the tools to remove the latest variants. They are too aggressive or too complicated to allow for automated removal.”
Read the entire article. It’s important stuff, and somebody needs to pick up CWShredder and continue the fight. But what’s also necessary is a full scale assault on the Russian creators and purveyors of this AND the advertisers who pay for it. As The Register notes, the solution lies at the end of the money trail.

30,000 newbies per year

The Classifieds section of the Sunday paper here in Nashville (The Tennessean) featured a little story on behind-the-scenes jobs in the television industry. It gave nice little tips on finding employment and described the types of jobs one can find. Everything from news director to associate producer was listed, but this sentence caught my eye:

“With over 30,000 people applying for these jobs each year, experience will be your best asset.”
Thirty thousand new behind-the-scenes people? Holy inflated expectations, Batman!

Spyware, Adware, and Malware, oh my!

I’m an experienced Adware/Spyware/Malware guy and have removed more of the little buggers than most. I had an encounter with one over the weekend, and thought I’d share this with my readers, in the off chance that it might help somebody.

There is no way to prevent this stuff, at least not yet. If you land on a Website that has one of these, the executable file is, well, executed, and the software begins loading on your computer. You can also pick them up during file sharing, viewing videos, listening to music, or any other application that “connects” your computer to another. It’s a Windows problem, because they’re generally written to exploit Windows applications. I was doing some research on Internet Television for a column and picked this one up in so doing. I watched a few samples of Internet TV, and one of them was obviously the source.

You may not realize anything is happening when you first encounter the download. In my case, lots of action screens began popping up, and I knew I’d hit upon something nasty. It took me nearly 24 hours to completely rid myself of the files and programs that had been loaded in the instant I’d happened upon it. The most common symptom is a browser or search function that isn’t the way you remember it. In this case, I also had software such as “Time Synchronizer” and “Lycos Search” added to my hard drive.

I used the following software to remove everything:

AdAware 6.0

Mostly, though, it was my knowledge from having been through this before that cleaned my computer. I knew where to look for files that HijackThis wouldn’t clean. This is knowledge not everyone possesses, and that’s why the good folks at Lavasoft (makers of AdAware) Support exist. They can help where others can’t, and I recommend everybody bookmark their site.

I believe the companies that use this method of attaching software to unknowing computers as a way of marketing themselves are run by the lowest life forms on the planet. The Justice Department should be spending its time eliminating these bastards from our society rather than worrying about teenagers who pirate a song now and then.

Words from my inner geek

From time-to-time, my inner geek rears his four-eyed head to say, “Hello.” It’s my duty when that happens to pass along information that may help my readers live more hassle-free lives with their computers. Real geeks likely already have this info, so if that describes you, you may exit now.

Today’s lesson involves Java, a display technology owned by Sun Microsystems. Those of us who use Microsoft products, especially Internet Explorer, have taken this little guy for granted over the years, because it was included in Internet Explorer as the Microsoft® Java Virtual Machine (MSJVM). Well, there was this court battle. Sun won. And now, the MSJVM can’t be included in Internet Explorer. Actually, the license was extended until December 31, 2007, but that only allows Microsoft to continue supporting the technology. What does this mean for you and me? If you’ve downloaded the latest version of IE for any reason, you’ll soon discover that certain Website pages won’t display properly. That’s because they contain a Java application, and your browser can’t read it anymore. So what’s a non-geek to do?

Go directly to Sun Microsystems and download their software. It’s free, and soon you’ll be on your merry way again.

An inner geek rant
Email is now less than useless, thanks to spammers and relentless attempts to make it a mass marketing tool. And now the law of unintended consequences strikes at software attempts to “fix” the problem. Case in point. In a former life, I ran a rather lively Internet community and made some friends around the globe. I still function as Webmaster for the company, and I got an email from one of these former community members asking for assistance. She had the same AOL address as always. I deleted a file for her and hit the reply button to let her know and to answer a few questions she had asked. AOL rejected the email as one that wasn’t on her approved list. She wrote again, wanting to know who was still around. Sigh. I’ve no easy way of reaching her.

Same thing with an old friend who works as an ABC correspondent. When the network went to an anti-spam email system, it began rejecting my emails with a message saying I needed to contact him and ask to be put on his list. It’s been over five years since I spoke with the guy, but we’ve exchanged dozens of emails. Another sigh. I don’t know about you, but I’m not about to make a phone call to get clearance for email access.